Are You Guilty of “Executive Blah Blah”?

“An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.” – Stephen R. Covey

“Blah blah” refers to words that have little meaning. When we talk to a dog, the dog responds to the tone of voice but doesn’t understand the words. When “executive blah blah” strikes at work, employees act like dogs — they may nod their heads, but they either don’t understand the message or don’t know what to do about it.

Most employees listen attentively to their leaders out of respect or fear. However, if they are not provided with concrete direction, they will leave with no intention to act any differently.

Indicators of potential inaction include:

* No individual is assigned responsibility for the project.

* No target dates with measurable results are set.

* No rewards for action and no consequences for inaction are set.

* No tough questions are asked.

* No project plan is produced or required by a set date.

* No budget is assigned.

* A meeting is required or anticipated to set an action plan — but the date of the meeting is not set.

* No one exhibits any genuine passion or excitement.

* No one feels any discomfort when expectations for new action and change are announced.

* No one knows how success will be quantified, measured, reviewed, publicized, and rewarded.

* No analysis proves why you need to change what, by when.

* No one can rapidly repeat the new actions or results that are expected.

* During the initial meeting, few people note the steps they need to take immediately.

* Words like “new,” “faster,” “better,” and “cheaper” are used without definitions or criteria that everyone can recite.

* After introducing the change, the leader doesn’t close with names, dates, and budgets.

* Many people need to repeat or forward the message to others back at the office.

* A speech is given, but no plan provided.

The solution can be found in “action mapping” — a checklist that contrasts the old direction with the new direction so that people can concretely see, understand, plan for, and execute the required changes.

To see if the critical pieces of action mapping are included in your critical projects, ask these five questions:

1. Does everyone now know specifically how to redirect their time or money given the new direction?

2. Are metrics (measures) clearly set to determine if individuals and teams are succeeding? (Count the score early and often.)

3. Are the new responsibilities linked to clear rewards for success and consequences for failure or inaction?

4. Where and when will the metrics be posted or distributed so everyone can know how they and others are doing?

5. What follow-up is planned to resolve the inevitable implementation and prioritization questions?

If you are serious about the new direction, obey six commandments: (1) it will be measured; (2) we will not hide where it’s happening and where it’s not; (3) we will reward those responsible for the success; (4) we will identify what is no longer the priority; (5) we will ensure that everyone understands what is to be different and plan openly and inclusively about how best to accomplish the new objectives; and (6) if we need other people to ensure our success, we will invest the time to get people on board.

Everyone needs to know what to “stop doing” and what to do more of. And no one rests until everyone gets it!

(Ed. Note: Laurie Anderson, Ph.D. is a consultant and clinical psychologist. The above essay is one of thousands of articles about leadership, management, and business success that are available on “The Instant Consultant” CD from Executive Excellence Publishing.)